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Wind study slow to gain ground  

Plans have changed for how a wind energy study will be conducted.

The shape of a Lenawee County-funded wind energy study is changing and some county commissioners asked last week to refresh a vote authorizing money for the update plan.

“We kind of backed up,” said John Tuckerman, R-Blissfield, in reporting to the commission last week on the wind study the commission voted in December to help fund with a $20,000 allocation. Tuckerman serves on the county’s

agriculture advisory committee that began work on the wind energy project last year.

The same committee did feasibility study work several years ago that led to organization of a local investor-owned ethanol business venture. The project resulted in construction of the Global Ethanol plant near Blissfield that opened a year ago.

Instead of using county funds to lease a tower and metering equipment for a year, Tuckerman said the committee is now planning to purchase metering equipment and lease space for it for two years on an existing cellular telephone tower near Blissfield.

Rob Hall, R-Hudson, asked for a chance to vote again on the allocation to avoid any misunderstandings about the project.

“I’m not objecting to it. I wish it would get started,” Hall said Monday. A new vote should be taken on the $20,000 allocation, he said, because plans for how it is to be used have changed. The new approach may cost less money than the original plan to have a leased tower temporarily installed, said Hall. But the commission should authorize using county money in a different way than expected when the original vote was taken.

“I don’t want people doing something that’s not on the up and up,” he said.

“Before any money is transferred we’ll make sure we’re all in agreement on it,” said commission chairman Jim Van Doren, R-Tipton, at Thursday’s commission session.

The commission voted in December on a wind study and that is exactly how the ag advisory committee is planning to use the funds, said committee member and former commissioner Larry Gould. The Morenci-area farmer has taken a lead role in the wind project.

The committee is in the process of purchasing wind-monitoring equipment to mount on a cellular telephone tower east of Blissfield. The tower is on land a cellular telephone company leases from Tuckerman. The tower has space available as high as 75 meters, said Gould. And the equipment can be left to collect data for two years, which will help in identifying where best to locate generating turbines, he said.

It now takes about two years for delivery of wind turbines when they are ordered from manufacturers, he said.

The cost of the study could be less than anticipated in December.

“We’re assuming it’s going to be a little bit of a savings,” Gould said.

Other aspects of the wind project have also not gone exactly as anticipated. The committee’s experience from the ethanol project was expected to help it quickly organize a wind energy venture, Gould said. But differences in marketing wind-generated electricity have slowed progress, he said.

A corporation, Great Lakes Wind LLC, was formed in January and registered with the state government. Gould said it is expected to take up to nine months to win government approval to sell shares in the new business venture.

A similar wind feasibility study undertaken last year by Washtenaw County has also taken longer to get off the ground than expected. An $86,000 county allocation was approved in July and a meteorological tower was to be erected last fall.

Washtenaw County’s plans changed after it hired a consulting firm, North Coast Wind & Power. Then Chrysler Corp. joined the project in February. Chrysler agreed to pay half the cost of setting up a tower at its Chelsea proving grounds.

The tower has been assembled on the ground but bad weather has delayed raising it, said Washtenaw County Energy Coordinator Joshua Long. It could be set up as early as today.

Long said Washtenaw County’s goal is an investment grade feasibility study that could spur private-sector energy development in the county.

By Dennis Pelham

Daily Telegram Staff Writer

The Daily Telegram

1 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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